Privacy campaigners sue the US Department of Justice

A California-based privacy group has launched a lawsuit against the US government, demanding the publication of information about FBI cyber surveillance operations. The Electronic Frontier Foundation launched its action after the authorities failed to disclose information requested under the Freedom of Information act. The EFF wants to find out more about two electronic surveillance systems used by the government agency to monitor electronic communications.

The two systems the EFF wants to scrutinise are known as DCS-3000 and Red Hook. They are intended to monitor online and telephone communications of terrorist suspects and criminals. The DCS-3000 is believed to be an offspring of the infamous Carnivore sniffer system, later renamed as DCS-1000 and thought to have been abandoned by the FBI. Privacy groups have long claimed these surveillance systems collect sensitive data even outside its strict remit, which should always be limited by a court order.

The EFF had previously demanded the disclosure of information regarding these new surveillance programmes, but received no compliance from the authorities. The group has said it believed US citizens should have the right to know how this technology could be used. “Recent allegations of domestic spying by the U.S. government already have both lawmakers and the general public up in arms,” said EFF attorney Marcia Hofmann. “The lawsuit is to force the FBI to release information about this to the public,” she added. The FBI has acknowledged it is aware of the EFF action, but has declined to comment.

The US government is also currently involved in a court battle against another civil liberties group, the American Civil Liberties Union, regarding its controversial Terrorist Surveillance Program. The program allows monitoring foreign communications of supposed terrorist suspects without the necessary court orders. The ACLU has challenged this practice, claiming it is unconstitutional and a judge ruled in their favour in August. However, the US government is currently appealing and has this week secured the right to continue its warrantless surveillance operation until the appeal is heard.


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